Gun control series Part III: Gun reform that would actually work

In Part I of this series I shared some very personal experiences and explained why I’m armed. Then in Part II, I described what I’ve done to find middle ground. In this installment, I’ll detail a successive series of actions that, if enacted correctly and in the right order, might actually keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Enforce Existing Laws

Criminals continue to obtain guns despite our long history of passing new federal and state gun control laws. I personally find it disturbing that many gun control laws do very little to stop criminals from obtaining guns, but often stop law-abiding citizens from obtaining them.

Since existing gun control laws aren’t effectively enforced, we can’t know how effective they might be if they were enforced. So until we rigorously enforce the laws already on the books, we should reject any new gun control legislation.

If, after enforcing existing laws, criminals continue obtaining guns, we can move on to the next logical action.

Make Background Checks Effective

Before selling a gun, federally licensed gun dealers must perform a background check using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) – a process that represents about 78% of all gun purchases in the U.S.

Unfortunately, since crime data submission to NICS is voluntary, 20 states (and some of the military) have chosen to NOT submit data. What’s equally alarming is that the 30 states that do submit, frequently submit partial or incomplete data.

I could commit a violent crime in at least 20 states (or as part of the military) and still pass a background check when buying a gun.

Thanks in large part to gun manufacturers and the gun lobby, a lot of progress has been made towards making NICS more effective. Visit the Fix NICS website to learn what’s being done and how you can help.

Further gun control measures are only appropriate if criminals continue to obtain guns after NICS contains all violent crime data making background checks truly effective.

Require Background Checks for Private Sales

In my home state of Utah, if I want to sell a gun to a private party, I have to meet the purchaser in person so I can physically inspect their ID to verify they’re a Utah resident. Once verified, I can sell them a gun without a background check.

However, in order to sell a gun to a non-Utah resident, I have to ship the gun to a licensed gun dealer who must perform a background check before the private buyer can take possession of the gun.

A bill passed by the U.S. Congress last week would require background checks for all private gun sales. I have no problem with the intent behind this law, but there are two factors that render it useless:

  1. It’s unenforceable so it will just on to the scrap heap with the rest of our unenforced gun laws.
  2. Background checks are all but useless so this bill was authored as pacification for gun control advocates.

I believe we should impose a moratorium on new gun control legislation until after enforcing existing gun control laws and fixing NICS.

If criminals continue to obtain guns after all of the above actions are taken, I would support requiring a background check for all private sales which could be handled exactly how interstate sales are handled as described above.

And finally, if all the above actions are taken, and criminals continue to obtain guns, I would support one final legal measure.

Gun-Violence Restraining Order (GRVO)

GRVOs – also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) – “permit a spouse, parent, sibling, or person living with a troubled individual to petition a court for an order enabling law enforcement to temporarily take that individual’s gun rights away.”

This is what I’d consider the “nuclear option”, which means its passage and implementation should occur only after the above measures have been enacted and criminals are still able to obtain guns. Obviously, if this option becomes necessary, it must be implemented very carefully to prevent any unintended consequences or violation of due process and constitutional liberties.

Final Thoughts

Like most gun rights advocates, I’m not opposed to sensible measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. I hope all of us will begin having open discussions about this serious issue and realize that working together is the only way it will ever be put to rest.



Tom Milligan proudly opposes anyone who messes with the US Constitution, regardless of party affiliation. He is a pro-life, gun-toting conservative that supports the Convention of States and other measures to limit the size and power of the federal government.

Tom is the father of 4 great men and husband to an amazing wife. You can follow Tom on Twitter and Facebook.